You probably already know there are many times it is wiser to be quiet than to speak. When a woman asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?” you’re better off not saying anything. If your friend is fighting with a spouse and asks you for your opinion about the argument, you should just stay out of it. But did you know the Bible lists some other very specific times when you should remain silent?
It’s always a good idea to take the information from your “User’s Manual,” the Bible, when you want to deal with important issues. Proverbs 21:23 (MSG) warns, “Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.” Controlling your words is often difficult, but the Bible gives at least seven times when it is critical that you just keep quiet.
1) Be quiet…when your words will be a poor reflection of your Lord. Peter 2:21-23 (MSG) “This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.”
Jesus is to be your example in all things, and He set the tone for your speech. He never said anything wrong, and you should strive for the same record. Generally, when you aren’t sure you should say something, it’s a good time to be quiet. At the very least, nothing you say should make people think, “If Christians are like that, I’d never want to be one!”
2) Be quiet…when you don’t have all the facts or you haven’t verified the story. Proverbs 18:13 (MSG) “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” Deuteronomy 17:6 (CJB) “The death sentence is to be carried out only if there was testimony from two or three witnesses; he may not be sentenced to death on the testimony of only one witness.”
Christians should never jump to conclusions before getting all the facts of a situation. Things are rarely what they seem at first glance, so you need to reserve your comments on any issue until you verify the facts and get all the information possible from those most closely involved. This might relate to something you think your child did, or something a U.S. Senator is accused of doing. When you make snap judgements, you might say something that will damage someone else’s life forever.
3) Be quiet…when in the heat of anger. Proverbs 14:17 (GNT) “People with a hot temper do foolish things; wiser people remain calm.”
This one is pretty obvious, but in our increasingly stressful society, people often hit the melting point long before they should. This involves everything from road rage to an argument with a friend. If you feel yourself getting hot, walk away and take time to cool down before you speak.
4) Be quiet…when you are tempted to tell an outright lie. Proverbs 4:24 (GNT) “Never say anything that isn’t true. Have nothing to do with lies and misleading words.”
There is really no such thing as a “little white lie.” The truth is the truth, and shading it or telling half of it is lying. The Bible gives you all the instruction you need about lying in any form: “Don’t lie to each other. You’ve gotten rid of the person you used to be and the life you used to live.” Colossians 3:9 (GWT)
5) Be quiet…when your words might offend a weaker person. 1 Corinthians 8:11 (GNT) “And so this weak person, your brother for whom Christ died, will perish because of your ‘knowledge’!”
You are your brothers’ keepers! It is your job, as members of the family of God, to help those who are younger in the faith than you, and to be aware of those who might be offended more easily than you are. Your comment may be something that is true and even something you think they need to hear, but is it worth losing your testimony and perhaps damaging someone else’s faith? Better to say nothing than to hurt someone else so deeply.
6) Be quiet…when you are tempted to gossip. Proverbs 16:28 (GNT) “Gossip is spread by wicked people; they stir up trouble and break up friendships” or, in the New Living Translation version of the same passage, “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”
A good definition of gossip is”saying something that is better left unsaid.” Gossip isn’t always something untrue, but it is always something that doesn’t need to be repeated. Many times in the church gossip comes to you in the disguise of a “prayer request.” The best way to handle this type of situation is to just be quiet. If you say nothing, you aren’t guilty of spreading gossip and separating friends (either yours or those of other people).
7) Be quiet…when the issue is none of your business. Proverbs 14:10 (GNT) “Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.”
People sometimes think they have to weigh in on every issue. The Bible says this isn’t so. There are many things that are private matters, things that involve others, not you. If an issue is really none of your business, it’s better not to comment on it at all.
In James 3 the tongue is likened to a mighty forest fire that rages out of control if it gets the chance. It is impossible for people to control what they say in haste and, in the end, only God can give you the ability to use your words wisely all the time. You should always pray to that end, but in the meantime, you should also learn when to just keep quiet.
The Holy Bible in these translations: Complete Jewish Bible (CJB), GOD’S WORD Translation (GWT), Good News Translation (GNT), New International Reader’s Version (NIRV), The Message (MSG)